Dick Grote: A Comment on the HBS Article, “The Right Way to Fire Someone.” Management Tactic of Transferring Blame to Labor is Unacceptable; Vigilance of these Tactics Obligatory

Knight, Rebecca (2016). “The Right Way to Fire Someone.” Harvard Business Review. February 5.

The article, “The Right Way to Fire Someone,” by Rebecca Knight, is in the Harvard Business Review. This article is pro-management, which is not surprising because Harvard Business School published Dick Grote’s book on forced ranking. The core of the anecdotes in the article is clear: flawed employees and managers forced to endure a firing meetings bravely for the good of the organizations.

Unmentioned, however, are organizations afflicted with poor management yet having the nerve to adopt firing as a way to cover up for their incompetence. Indeed, the blame shifting from management to employees, described previously, is the vehicle used for these firings. (In a story related by Grote, a “suffering but concerned” manager does the termination meeting and instead of having security escort the discarded employee out of the workplace, the manager forces the employee on the “walk of shame,” saying that it is like the manager and employee are walking together as usual. (Yea, right! This is offensive. The manager is lucky that an act of revenge was not implemented on him.) As a result, I do not have any respect for this shameful article.

For example, in case study number one, the ill effect of a management-directed “reorganization” was pushed onto the affected, that is, fired, employee. The manager’s fault for the situation was totally ignored.

In case study number two, a fired employee is found to have “serious deficiencies” after only two years. The “empathetic” manager placed the targeted employee on a performance improvement plan, asked all employees for suggestions to improve everyone’s performance, asked if there were outside causes for the so-called poor performance. Despite all of this effort, the case study asserted, the manager (gasp!) was left wanting!

Underneath all of this hand wringing is the effects of a forced ranking process–identifying targets as poor performers, placing them on a PIP (which will not lead to improvement), then firing the target, blaming them totally for the management-planned-and-expected failures.

Interestingly, this “poorly performing” employee had a load of work that had to be redistributed to those who remained after the culling. This sentence showed, again, the absurdity of rank and yank and why it is a terrible program.